What’s in a name? Surveyors Ferry, NC

Catching my attention recently on the map, “Carte des Etats-Unis: Provinces Meridionales”, was Surveyors Ferry across the Pasquotank River. SurveyorsFerry1

Who was/were the alleged surveyor(s)? 

“Carte des Etats-Unis: Provinces Meridionales” (above) was published in 1799 in François Alexandre Frédéric, duc de la Rochefoucauld-Liancourt’s book, Voyage dans les États-Unis d’Amérique, fait en 1795, 1796 et 1797. That same year, an English translation of the book, published in London, contained a similar map,  “Map of the Southern Provinces of the United States“, that also shows Surveyors Ferry. 

Detail showing Surveyors Ferry on Map of the Southern Provinces of the United States

Detail showing Surveyors Ferry on Map of the Southern Provinces of the United States

One will not find Surveyors Ferry on any earlier map from the 1790s, nor on any printed map for more than 60 years prior to these 1799 maps. One must go all the way back to the 1733 Moseley map of North Carolina to find the source, and even there you won’t find Surveyor’s Ferry. In fact, the original spelling was Sawyer’s Ferry!

Detail of Edward Moseley's 1733 map of North Carolina, showing Sawyer's Ferry across the Pasquotank River. Image courtesy of East Carolina University.

Detail of Edward Moseley’s 1733 map of North Carolina, showing Sawyer’s Ferry across the Pasquotank River. Image courtesy of East Carolina University.

Stewart Dunaway, the foremost authority on colonial ferries and bridges in North Carolina, found no mention of the establishment of Sawyer’s Ferry in the extant colonial records held by the State Archives. (The ferry was obviously well established when referenced in 1784 state legislation.) Sawyer was a common surname in Pasquotank County as early as the late 17th century. No fewer than 3 Sawyers are located on the 1770 Churton-Collet map (below). The ferry is not shown on the Churton-Collet map, but it was likely in the location of the “orange bar” as shown below.

Detail from the 1770 Churton-Collet map, courtesy of the Library of Congress

Detail from the 1770 Churton-Collet map, courtesy of the Library of Congress

Given the rarity of the 1733 Moseley map, one might be surprised that it would have been used over 60 years later as a source. If anyone finds more evidence on François Alexandre Frédéric’s 1799 map that Moseley’s map was used as a source, or finds “Sawyer’s Ferry” on any printed map published between 1733 and 1799, please let us know via the “What’s on your mind” comment box below. As a final comment, careful observers may have noticed on la Rochefoucauld-Liancourt’s map that the engraver seemed uncertain about the place name. “Surweyer’s Ferry” [sic] appears to be engraved over an incomplete erasure. Surweyer  If someone can decipher the original engraved text, please let us know.

ADDENDUM 8/2016: There is some discussion of early Pasquotank River ferries on pages 22 & 23 of Ante-Bellum Elizabeth City:The History of a Canal Town, © William A. Griffin 1970.

ADDENDUM 5/2019: One of the early keepers of Sawyer’s Ferry was a slave by the name of Moses Grandy, hired out to Enoch Sawyer for three years. The following is Grandy’s account of this time:

    I was next with Mr. Enoch Sawyer of Camden county: my business was to keep ferry, and do other odd work. It was cruel living; we had not near enough of either victuals or clothes; I was half-starved for half my time. I have often ground the husks of Indian corn over again in a hand-mill, for the chance of getting something to eat out of it, which the former grinding had left. In severe frosts, I was compelled to go into the fields and woods to work, with my naked feet cracked and bleeding from extreme cold: to warm them, I used to rouse an ox or hog, and stand on the place where it had lain. I was at that place three years, and very long years they seemed to me.
Mr. George Furley was my next master; he employed me as a car-boy in the Dismal swamp; I had to drive lumber, &. I had plenty to eat and plenty of clothes. I was so  overjoyed at the change, that I then thought I would not have left the place to go to heaven.1

Murder in Pasquotank County, Surveyor’s Ferry… we need one more story to hit the Albemarle Sound region trifecta. Stay tuned!

References

  1. Grandy, Moses. Narrative of the Life of Moses Grandy, Late a Slave in the United States of America, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library, 2011. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/unc/detail.action?docID=797785. Created from unc on 2019-05-09 15:09:54.

One thought on “What’s in a name? Surveyors Ferry, NC

  1. Pingback: Nathaniel Batts: Buried at sea, but not originally - North Carolina Map BlogNorth Carolina Map Blog

What's on your mind?